creative practices

8 Different Creative Practices

Californie_angel_california_82523_hSince I haven't been able to write blog posts this week, I've been spending more time on my other writing—like my beloved novel and short stories.   And this, in turn, has made me think more about the value of establishing good creative practices.  And recently, I've come across some different kinds of practices I thought you might be interested in.   Here are my suggestions:

Write 1K Words a Day. Yeah, I know this is not necessarily anything new. But a consistent writing practice is the basis of everything else you do. I see you picking up things to throw at me. This is far and away the hardest practice to establish—and the most rewarding. It makes you feel like a writer, it piles up the pages of a project, it keeps your WIP in your brain all the time. If 1,000 words seems a bit much, start smaller—start with 10 if that's what works for you! But do try it.

Create a Log Book. I recently read Austin Kleon's book, Steal Like an Artist, and because he told me to, I'm stealing this idea. Anyway, I love it and have started doing it myself. Rather than worry about a journal entry, just do a list of things that happened each day. (He includes cute drawings, but I'm not much of an artist so I don't.) As he explains, its important to be able to look back at where you've been and what you've accomplished—and it's a lot of fun. Try making this your first-thing-in-the-morning-practice, and list the events of the day before.

Use a Bullet Journal. This little baby has been life changing for me. No, I'm not exaggerating. It corrals all my thoughts, ideas, plans, and to-dos all in one place in a way that makes sense and so that I can access them easily. It's an analog journal you create yourself—and you can find out everything you need to know to make one here. 

Doodle a Day. I'm an inveterate doodler. In meetings, on the phone, chatting with friends, it's likely I have a pen in hand and am using it to make spirals and other shapes on the page. I know it helps me focus, but I've always felt vaguely guilty about it. And then I read in Kleon's book that doodling is a good thing. Why? Because its part of the process of getting your work out into the world. So try creating a more intentional doodle to loosen yourself up before you start writing.

Be Happy. Yes, you can make the decision to be happy rather than full of angst. And, no, you don't have to be tortured to be an artist. It's a damaging myth that you have to unhappy to write. Quite the opposite is true actually. Because if you're upset about something, isn't it nearly impossible to focus on your writing? So, yeah, make it a creative practice to be happy.

Be Boring. I stole this one from Kleon's book, too. And I've often thought the same thing about my life—when I'm writing regularly I'm happy as I can be, but I'm also boring. People ask me what's going on and I answer, "I wrote 1,000 words every day this week." Um, not so fascinating. But fantastic for productivity. I'm much more interesting when things are falling apart—and much less productive.

Fall in Love. When I'm writing regularly, I'm in love with my writing and I'm in love with my life, too—even when it is boring. And I've learned that it is entirely possible to fall in love with my writing even when I think I'm not. Hint: one way this happens is when you commit to working on it regularly. You how when you're in love with someone you want to see them all the time? Same thing with writing. So cultivate an attitude of love for your writing and it will lead to more writing.

Keep it Simple. I was reading a novel awhile ago and I realized what a simple story it was. I liked the story a lot—and this was when I learned that a story doesn't have to be complicated to be good. Just like life. Keep it simple.

And yeah, if you thought you detected a theme here, you would be correct—and that would be a theme of simplicity. The older I get, the more I realize that we humans like to complicate things, just because we can. So look for ways to simplify wherever you can—it will improve your writing. 

Do you have a regular creative practice that you cultivate?  Please share!  

Writing in the Rain in Nashville

If the title of this post sounds familiar, its because it is….I wrote a post called The Writing Life: It's Raining SBphoto in Nashville back in September when last I was here.  It rained hard then, and it is raining hard

once again today.                     (Above: View of labyrinth from my room at Scarrritt-Bennett)               

Personally, I like the rain.  I'm an Oregonian, after all–I'm used to it.  But I also like the cold, wintry days we had here last week, with the sky gray and threatening snow.  I arrived on Wednesday to be the "book doctor" for Room to Write, an amazingly wonderful four-day writing retreat.

I got a lot of writing and pondering (c'mon, it is a vitally important part of writing) done, got introduced to the quiet thrill of walking the labyrinth, discovered a couple great new Nashville restaurants, and most importantly, met some incredible people.

I feel blessed to work with Rabbi Rami.  A mutual friend described him as one of the sharpest theologians of our time, and I think she's right.  He's also got a passion for writing and a passion for helping other writers.  He's awesome, plain and simple.

My very first coaching appointment was with Janet Hagan.  I came away from it with A. a new social media consultant, and B. (and most importantly) an awesome new friend.  This woman is amazing, people!  Go read her blog and soak up her wisdom.  Or hire her.  She is great at demystifying social networking for writers.

Ruth Williams is a therapist whose mission is to spread joy…and just being with her begins that process! I also shared the weekend with John Anderson, whose smile, jokes, and enthusiasm for writing lit up everyone's day, Sarah Young, Deborah Hatton, and Samantha Yeargin, new friends who were a pleasure to get to know.  I could write pages about any of them, but I won't because I have other things to discuss.

My job at the retreat was to be on hand for coaching, hand-holding, and offering advice about writing.  Besides writing, I love coaching writers (and other creative types) more than anything else in the world. It is satisfying to hear that my efforts have helped others past blocks but that's not why I do it.  I do it because through my own years as a writer, I've discovered techniques to unblock myself and keep the words flowing and its my mission in life to share them.  Why?  Because I'm a sappy soul who believes that if everyone followed their creative path regularly, we'd have a lot happier world.  Fewer wars, less anger, more joy and happiness and good old fashioned contentment.

My pleasure in coaching writers this weekend has led me to a Thought.  And the Thought is that I want to spend more time coaching in the new year.  I'm not talking about reviewing or critiquing writing here–that is a totally different beast.  I want to spend time helping you get the words on the page, whether that requires gentle prodding or swift kicks in the you-know-what.

The coaching will be based on my own system, Writing Abundance: The Seven Practices of the Prolific and Prosperous Writer, because I want you to be both madly prolific and wildly prosperous in the new year.  (If you want to learn more about this system, you can also subscribe to my newsletter, at the top right of this page.)

To celebrate this decision, I'm going to be offering free coaching sessions.  Yes, you heard it right, free coaching sessions.  Soon as I get back to Portland, I'll sit down with my calendar and figure out the specifics, so keep your eye on this blog.  And if you can't wait until then, if you need help right this very minute with your writing, just go ahead and email me.  You'll find the address at the top of this page.  So until next time, happy writing.